Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Attractiveness in Mauritania

I believe that it is commonly said that some features of women, like symmetry, breasts, and youthfulness, are uniformly considered attractive across time and space, while taste for heft and skin tone vary. The more expensive of fat/thin and white/tan (at least among white people) is usually the more attractive.

The NYTimes reports that women in Mauritania are so desperate to plump up that some of them are force fed like geese in a foie gras factory.
Now Mauritania’s government is out to change that. In recent years, television commercials and official pronouncements have promoted a new message: being fat leads to diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure and other woes. The joggers outside the Olympic stadium testify to their impact: Until lately, a Mauritanian woman in jogging shoes was roughly as common as a camel in stiletto heels.
The government isn't exactly tackling this problem with creativity. A woman interviewed has it more right, I think:
“Men want women to be fat, and so they are fat,” she said.
My question is, when will the equilibrium switch like it did many years ago in the US? Is there some dynamic path in which the arms race for fatness doesn't end? Force feeding is suggestive to me that, instead of the healthy and discontinuous equilibrium switch to skinnyness being attractive, we are seeing a race for more and more expensive versions of fatness. Maybe I'll attempt to write a paper about this, or at least find the paper that's already been written.

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